Garuda payback

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Nov 26 2014 02:08 PM | Updated as of Nov 26 2014 10:08 PM

Martin Steuble (C) of the Philippines celebrate with team mates Misagh Bahadoran (L) and Daisuke Sato after scoring against Indonesia in Hanoi. Photo by Kham, Reuters

Somehow the words of some old foes keep coming back to me especially during Suzuki Cup time.

In 2010, there was Raddy Avramovic and Alfred Reidl as well as some of the Indonesian players.

Avramovic, then head coach of Singapore, was asked during the press conference that preceded the group stage in Vietnam what he thought of the Philippines.

Maybe it was rude. Maybe it was because the Philippines had not done anything up to that point but the Wizard of Southeast Asia dismissed the Pearl of the Orient by saying, “Ask me when you (the Philippines) make the semifinals.”

Onto the third straight semis appearance four years later after Indonesia got waxed, 4-0…. Oh, wait. Indonesia. They who bought the lost home match of 2010 for what $50,000?

They who used to say that the Philippines was made up of European mercenaries conveniently forgetting that Cristian Gonzales is a naturalized player and Irfan Bachdim was born in the Netherlands. For their 2014 Suzuki Cup squad, Raphael Maitimo and Sergio van Dijk were born in the Netherlands! Muhammad Ridwan is half-Filipino, half-Indonesia (when he is Manila he stays in Project 4, Quezon City). And Gonzales has been dusted off for one more stint (although he is far from his Asi Taulava self). Tsk. Tsk.

Indonesia cannot claim that they fielded a wholly new side because in the 2002 Tiger Cup, the Philippine team they crushed by a score of 13-1 (Ali Go scored the only goal for the nationals) hardly had any preparation too.

The 4-0 win will not make up for the 13-1 loss or the 12-0 demolition in the President’s Cup. It will not make up for the previous 86-17 goal difference.

But now, the head-to-head match up is 19-2-1.

And this is how they did it.

1. Speed and pace

I mentioned this in my breakdown of the win over Laos to open the Suzuki Cup and it was good to see the Filipinos continue to play at a blistering pace.

The Indonesians use to make life miserable for our defensive backs when they unleashed Okto Maniani on the left.

Welcome to PMNT 2K14 version. They have not met anyone like Misagh Bahadoran with speed on the wings and who can dance around foes on a 1v1. And he can find teammates with nifty crosses.

If he wasn’t enough of a bother (Indonesia still remembers Phil Younghusband all too well), there was Martin Steuble and Patrick Reichelt coming from the right and the middle.

If possession was lost, the Filipinos immediately swarmed over the ball carrier to win it back. Shades of Barcelona under Pep Guardiola (I know Thomas Dooley is a fan of Barcelona and Pep)!

Speed also isn’t the physical manifestation of a player moving on the field. It also refers to the speed of thought.

Take, for example, the indirect free kick inside the box after the Kurnia Meiga handled the ball off a pass by a defender. Phil Younghusband was quick to recognize where Martin Steuble was and to know the exact moment the referee raised his hand to signify that the game had resumed.

We definitely learned a thing or two after Singapore snuck one past us in the last Suzuki Cup when Khairul Amri scored off a hastily taken free kick with the defense still not yet ready.

Now if we can only repay Singapore in spades as well.

2. Less dribbling, more passing and being aggressive

I remember Thomas Dooley telling me after the AFC Challenge Cup that he was going to work on the team making the quick pass. Over-dribbling and the late pass have been problems in years past.

Under the previous coach, the team worked on keeping possession but the majority of possession doesn’t guarantee a win. If the passing isn’t accurate, it will lead to interceptions and counters.

Although there are still some lapses but overall, the ball moves around a lot quicker. They move up on the field a whole lot better keeping foes guessing and on their heels.

The team is bristling with offensive firepower.

How many have scored – Phil, Simone Rota, Reichelt, Manny Ott, Steuble, and Rob Gier. And Manny Ott! What a thundercracker of a goal!

Now that’s six Filipinos who have found the back of the net and in only two matches.

In start contrast, in 2012, the Philippines scored only two goals – one from Paul Mulders and another from Chieffy Caligdong. In 2010, after two games, only Chris Greatwich and Phil Younghusband scored.

And we all know that James Younghusband (the second leading scorer on the PMNT with 10 strikes) is also adept at finding the back of the net.

And as I previously mentioned, thus far, every time Phil Younghusband scores in a Suzuki Cup match, the Philippines wins. And that’s 4-0. Coincidental but not bad. Not bad at all. In means the PMNT’s all-time leading scorer is in his groove and highly dangerous.

3. Defense

The defense was great. Indonesia was reduced to firing from the outside (in fact, they got off their most shots in the final five minutes). Daisuke Sato has been solid and I believe we have the heirs to Ray Jonsson and Dennis Cagara. Amani Aguinaldo is simply getting better.

And although Patrick Deyto let his excitement get the better of him again when he needlessly rushed out, he was still terrific.

Being a little more aggressive on defense prevents opponents from deliberate build-ups and they leads to passing under duress. In the 65th minute, the ball was given away rather cheaply and almost immediately, two Filipinos converged on the Indonesia. Before he could make a mad dash forward, he was dispossessed of the ball.

It was that kind of play that has been a hallmark of the past two wins – speed, pace, and hustle. Loads of it.

Now to finish strong and make it three straight over Vietnam.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.